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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
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The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Corey Crawford
Hawks' Crawford Gives Up Three Goals In Loss
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
12:45 PM
News: Corey Crawford surrendered three goals on 29 shots in Sunday's loss to Vancouver.
Analysis: Despite the loss, it was a strong outing for Corey Crawford, who was making his 11th straight start. He has been one of the best fantasy goalies this season, winning four of his past five games and posting a 9-5-1 record on the year. Backup Anti Raanta (illness) is feeling better and may get a start in the near-future, but any night Crawford is in the Hawks' crease, he needs to be in your lineup.

Kris Versteeg
Hawks' Versteeg Scores Seventh Goal
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
12:38 PM
News: Kris Versteeg scored for the third time in four games in Sunday's loss to Vancouver.
Analysis: Life alongside Patty Kane is pretty sweet. Kris Versteeg is thriving on the second line, collecting three goals and seven points in his last four games. He is also playing on the Hawks' top power-play unit, where he tipped in a Duncan Keith shot Sunday. With seven goals on the season, Versteeg is worth adding, at least until Patrick Sharp (leg) returns from injury.

Mike Smith
Coyotes' Smith Drops Sixth Straight
Mike Smith, G, ARI
12:19 PM
News: Mike Smith lost for the sixth straight game Sunday, giving up two goals on 30 shots against Anaheim.
Analysis: While Mike Smith played great in the loss, the goaltending situation developing in Arizona is quite interesting. Although Smith is the clear No.1 goalie, backup Devon Dubnyk has outplayed him thus far, posting a 5-0-1 record. Don't be worried though, as Smith played well enough Sunday to remind us why we put our faith in him in the first place. The wins will come sooner or later.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Shuts Down Coyotes
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
12:06 PM
News: Frederik Andersen stopped 26 of 27 shots in Sunday's win over Arizona.
Analysis: After losing five straight games, Frederik Andersen has gotten back on track of late, winning two straight and allowing only five goals in that span. With a 9-2-4 record, Andersen has been one of the more reliable fantasy options this season. The Ducks are leading the Western Conference with 31 points, and Andersen is a big reason why. Keep the 25-year-old stud rolling.

Brett Bellemore
Canes' Bellemore Out 7-10 Days
Brett Bellemore, D, CAR
9:38 AM
News: Brett Bellemore (lower body) is expected to miss the next 7-10 days, Michael Smith of the team's official site reports.
Analysis: Brett Bellemore left Saturday's game against the Avalanche after a hard run in with the boards, but was thought to just have been a little banged up. His injury is still not expected to be too serious, but the Canes will need to find a replacement on the blue line for the time being.

Roman Polak
Leafs' Polak Out Four Weeks
Roman Polak, D, TOR
9:32 AM
News: Roman Polak is expected to miss the next four weeks with a knee strain, James Mirtle of TSN reports.
Analysis: Roman Polak's leg got caught up awkwardly with boards Saturday when he went in for a hit on the Red Wings' Tomas Tatar, and he originally appeared to have an ankle injury. It turns out it was his knee that got hurt on the play, so he'll be replaced by Korbinian Holzer for the foreseeable future.

Curtis Lazar
Sens' Lazar Returning Monday
Curtis Lazar, RW, OTT
9:25 AM
News: Curtis Lazar (undisclosed) will return to the lineup Monday against the Red Wings.
Analysis: The rookie center is still in search of his first NHL goal, but has tallied six assists in his first 15 games. He'll return to the lineup in place of Colin Greening.

Brad Marchand
Bruins' Marchand: Game-Time Decision
Brad Marchand, LW, BOS
9:22 AM
News: Brad Marchand (undisclosed injury) is a game-time decision for Monday's game against the Penguins, WEEI reports.
Analysis: Brad Marchand skated Monday morning, but it looks like his status for the Bruins' evening tilt won't be clarified before pregame warmups. With Marchand, David Krejci and Chris Kelly all banged up, the Bruins recalled forwards Jordan Caron and David Pastrnak in advance of Monday's contest.

Brian Lashoff
Wings' Lashoff To Be Healthy Scratch
Brian Lashoff, D, DET
9:22 AM
News: Brian Lashoff will not play against Ottawa on Monday night as a healthy scratch, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: Brian Lashoff actually tallied his first point of the season Thursday, but his play in Friday night's 4-1 loss to Toronto apparently warranted a change. Jakub Kindl will take his spot in the lineup.

Jakub Kindl
Wings To Reinsert Kindl Into Lineup
Jakub Kindl, D, DET
9:19 AM
News: Jakub Kindl will take Brian Lashoff's place in the lineup Monday versus the Senators, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Analysis: The Red Wings are still trying to decide who that sixth defenseman will be alongside Xavier Ouellet for the time being. Until either Jakub Kindl or Lashoff starts to play more consistently, this alternating will likely continue.

 
 
 
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